Fort Gibson back on track
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
2/12/13 at 4:10 AM
The Fort Gibson girls got a surprise when they reported for practice last Wednesday.
Head coach Jerry Walker collected their workout jerseys, the ones that identified them as members of the Tigers basketball program.
"We put them in target jerseys and said they weren't going to get the others back until we started playing like Fort Gibson is supposed to play," Walker said.
Walker has high standards. With a 4A state title in 2011 and runner-up finish last year, the Tigers have lost a total of two games in three seasons.
They capped an unbeaten regular season in 2013 with Monday's 60-38 win over Locust Grove. But Walker thought something was missing, at least last week.
He didn't like how the Tigers played in a 56-41 win over Hilldale, so he made practice changes aimed at motivating greater effort. The tactics must have worked because the Tigers tore into Catoosa 72-46 last Friday behind senior Brooke Palmer's 25 points and 11 rebounds.
"He was trying to work on our mental toughness," Palmer said. "We had lost it through the year, and I think we got it back."
Walker felt the Tigers were in a lull prior to postseason play, which starts for 4A-3A-2A schools this weekend.
"When you've been to the playoffs a lot, the tendency is to coast, but as a coach, you know that's dangerous," Walker said. "We needed to refocus ourselves."
He's hoping for the return of the team that won preseason scrimmages from the likes of upper-division opponents like Booker T. Washington and Midwest City.
The Tigers' play in November convinced Walker they might be contenders again, even after losing seniors Julia Hill, Jodi Glover and Kirby Parnell from a 28-2 team.
Savannah Gray, a smooth, 5-foot-9 junior averaging 6.3 assists, and senior guard Taylor London were the lone returning starters. But the Tigers had other players waiting in the wings.
The 5-10 Palmer, who contributed off the bench last season, has made the most of her opportunity, averaging 16 points and four rebounds.
"She's what (assistant Chuck London, Taylor's dad) calls a 'program player,' someone who makes themselves better through individual effort," Walker said. "She's always in the gym shooting. She's gotten stronger in the weight room. And now she's reaping the benefits."
Sophomore starters Allie Glover (Jodi's sister) and CheyAnne Johnson head a promising class that never lost a junior high game.
Mike Brown 918-581-8390